Guide to Driving In Puerto Rico - Drive Safe in Puerto Rico
Are there any special requirements for driving in Puerto Rico?
To begin with you need to understand that with nearly 4m inhabitants, Puerto Rico lays claim to being the 51st state of the US and much of the way of life there is similar to other Hispanic influenced states on the mainland. As in the US, you'll drive on the right in Puerto Rico. With so many people on a small island, the roads can get busy, so in the cities try to avoid driving during the rush hour times of 8 AM – 10 AM and 4 PM - 6 PM as traffic is always bad then.
Roads in the countryside can be quite dangerous because they have narrow bends and local drivers don't always slow down. Driving defensively is a good idea with a warning honk just as you turn a corner. Other roads may only have one-and-a-half lanes so proceed carefully.
Always have a good map or rent a low cost satellite navigation system from us as signs can be few and far between. It's highly recommended that you get a car with air conditioning as it is always hot and humid in Puerto Rico.
Seat Belt Laws
By law, you must wear a seatbelt at all times whilst the car is moving when you're in Puerto Rico.
Drinking and Driving
The drink driving limit in Puerto Rico is 80mg per 100ml of blood, the same as in the UK and most US states. There are serious consequences to breaking the law, many of them life long such as refused entry into the US, higher insurance costs etc. so don't exceed the limit, better still, don't drink and drive at all.
Must Have Documents
You'll be fine if you're a US citizen as your domestic licence will be accepted. Drivers from overseas must have an international drivers' licence. It is useful but not compulsory to carry the vehicle registration document and insurance certificate as well as a copy of your passport although the police accept photo licences as proof of ID.
25 miles per hour in the city
45 miles per hour on country roads
55 - 65 miles per hour on highways
It is worth knowing that distances are measured in kilometres but speed limits are done in miles. You'll get a fifty dollar fine plus five dollars for every mile per hour over the speed limit if you break the law.
Minimum Driving Age
To be able to drive in Puerto Rico you need to be at least 18 years old but car rental companies will insist you are over 23. There may be a young driver surcharge for drivers between 23 – 25 years of age. Check when booking.
Safety Camera Warning Devices
Warning devices are legal in most US states including Puerto Rico but radar jammers are illegal.
On the Spot Fines
As with all minor motoring offences in the US, you'll be given a ticket, sometimes called a citation, which will indicate the offence and the fine to be paid. These can be paid by credit or debit card, at a bank or at many main police stations.
Child Safety Rules
All US states take child car safety seriously and you must have the appropriate restraint and seat system for your child. Children under 12 can't sit in the front of the vehicle unless they fit in a rear facing seat with the air bag deactivated. If hiring a car, tell us your requirements and we'll make sure the correct system is fitted, ready for when you arrive.
Insurance requirements are complex in the US with personal liability a big issue. Each state has a minimum amount you must insure for then a maximum limit overall as well as vehicle damage insurance. Ask your insurance advisor for up to date information on what you need for Puerto Rico. If you're hiring a car from us, you can be assured that it will have comprehensive insurance that will meet Puerto Rican requirements.
Rules of the Road
There are a few anomalies to watch out for in Puerto Rico:
Distances in Puerto Rico are measured in kilometres but speed limits are marked in miles per hour.
You may find animals on the roads out of the cities so drive carefully
Use your horn on blind corners to warn oncoming drivers
There are no specific regulations for towing in Puerto Rico. Just use common sense to ensure the towed vehicle is securely attached and that other drivers know what you are doing.
Speed cameras are prevalent in Puerto Rico, both fixed and now, more commonly, radar traps. As the roads can be quite dangerous and local drivers are often inconsiderate of others, it's recommended you stick to the speed limits.
Using Mobile Phones when driving
It's illegal to use a mobile phone whilst driving in Puerto Rico unless you have a hands-free kit.
Puerto Rico is a heavily populated island and as such, parking is often at a premium. This means in effect that there is not much of it and, because demand is so high, paid parking can be expensive.
Paid parking can be expensive, especially where it's in high demand such as in the cities. There, it's best to choose a municipal garage to park in but check out the charges carefully; a fixed daily fee can often work out cheaper than a couple of hours.
Enforcement of parking is done by the police and you'll get a ticket to be paid at the local police station or bank. If you're causing an obstruction, your car is likely to be towed.
Whilst the European Blue Badge scheme isn't recognised in Puerto Rico, having your card with you can sometimes be useful for getting a more convenient space in a car park. Puerto Ricans are usually friendly and helpful so you should be well looked after.
Motor Way Signs
Because Puerto Rico is affiliated with the United States, motorway signs are exactly the same as in the US although the writing may be in Spanish as well as English.
Give way - Ceda el paso
Traffic lights - Semaforas
Right of way – Prioridad
Exit – Salida
Danger – Peligro
No parking - Prohibido aparcar
Slow – Despacio
Lane – Un carril
City centre – Centro ciudad
Carretera – Local Highway
Roadworks – Obras
Where is the nearest petrol station? – ¿Donde es la gasolinera la más cercana?
Excuse me, I’m lost – Por favor, estoy perdido…
Go straight on – ‘Siga todo recto’
Turn right – ‘Toma el giro a la derecha’
Turn left – ‘Toma el giro a la izquierda’
Detour - Desviacion
Toll Road – Carretera de Peaje
Road Closed – Cerrado.
Road Open – Abierto
Motorway – Una autopista
One way street – Direccíon unica
Dual Carriageway - Autovia
As much of the Puerto Rican road system is based on American principles, it's no surprise to learn the traffic lights follow the easy to understand US system.
There are three toll roads in Puerto Rico. The cost is very reasonable; usually $1.50 for small vehicles. The toll roads are a quicker and safer way of getting around the island.
If you intend to use the toll roads regularly, get an RFID auto pass which will save time passing through the toll booths, otherwise, head for lane C which is the cash lane.
The emergency services number is 911 as on the mainland.
The Puerto Rico Tourism office is at La Princesa Bldg. #2 Paseo La Princesa Old San Juan, Puerto Rico 00902.
The UK Embassy in Puerto Rico is at Torre Chardon, Suite 1236, 250 Chardon Av, San Juan Puerto Rico 00918. Their contact is (1) (787) 758 9828.
What to do in an emergency
If you are involved in an accident, do not move the car unless it is causing a danger to other road users. Phone the police on 911 and let your car hire company know too. You should exchange insurance details and addresses with the other driver/s. Take pictures of the accident if you have a camera handy - it may come in useful later. The police will issue a report that must be given to the insurance company or your hire company.
The price of 95 octane petrol in Puerto Rico was 59p a litre as at June 2014 with diesel a little cheaper.